Preview: Red Devils Visit Eastern Illinois in Friday Exhibition

Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.
EUREKA -- Eureka will continue preseason preparation for its 41st season at the NCAA Division III level and the 12th season of the Chip Wilde coaching era Friday night when the Red Devils play their first of two exhibitions in a 7 p.m. start at NCAA Division I Eastern Illinois.
The Red Devils are playing the Panthers for the ninth time on record and the fourth time under Wilde. EIU has won all eight previous matchups, including an 81-51 non-conference win in Charleston on Nov. 17, 2014.
Eureka returns 10 letterwinners and four players that started at least five games from last season's team that went 18-8 overall and finished as the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference runner-up with a 13-5 league record.
The Red Devils return three of their top four scorers from last season, including senior guard Hank Thomas. The Peoria, Ill. native averaged 17.4 points per game last season and became the 24th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points after a 12-point effort in the SLIAC Tournament semifinal versus Blackburn on Feb. 22. An All-SLIAC selection, Thomas finished among the top 10 individuals in the SLIAC last winter with 435 total points (eighth), 154 field goals made (ninth), a .791 free-throw percentage (ninth) and 17.4 points per game (10th).
Alex Wiegand also returns in the Eureka frontcourt and has been a mainstay in the Red Devils' starting lineup since his arrival on campus in 2015. He has averaged 6.4 points and 5.6 rebounds over his 76 career appearances, is the active Eureka leader with 428 career rebounds and ranks fourth on the program's career blocked shots list since 1994 with 79 career blocks.
Jordan Dehm is back for his third season after emerging as a contributor over the second half of his freshman season and making 25 starts as a sophomore a year ago. He put up 7.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last winter and carries a career 3-point field goal percentage of .362 into his junior campaign.
Dakota Bennington will enter his first full season in a Eureka uniform after joining the team at semester break last December. The Olivet Nazarene transfer was a force at the offensive end for EC, averaging 16.8 points per game in 17 outings and landing on the All-SLIAC Third Team. He also gathered 7.4 rebounds per contest.
Donald Hardaway, Jr., Austin Juergens and Koby White also return for the Red Devils after bolstering the team's backcourt rotation last season. Hardaway was a solid option off the bench in the second half of the season, Juergens appeared in all 26 games off the bench to average 5.7 points per contest and White shot 44 percent (14-for-32) from beyond the arc.
The Red Devils will welcome nearly a dozen newcomers to the 2018-19 roster, seven of which will have freshman eligibility.
For the first time since 2015 and the fourth time of the Chip Wilde coaching era, Eureka took an October trip to Ontario to play three foreign exhibition games.
The Red Devils dropped games to Western Ontario (100-76) and Lambton (94-89) before breaking out for a big win over traditional power Windsor on the final full day of the trip.
A preseason poll conducted by SLIAC men's basketball head coaches in October has tabbed Eureka fifth in the league in 2018-19. Greenville, the three-time defending regular-season champion and 2018 SLIAC Tournament winner, was picked to repeat as conference champion.
Five of the 10 first-place votes went to the Panthers, who edged runner-up Westminster. The Blue Jays received three first-place votes. Third-place Webster and fourth-place Blackburn also earned a first-place vote. Eureka was fifth.
Spalding, Principia, Fontbonne, MacMurray and Iowa Wesleyan round out the bottom half of the ballot.
Eastern Illinois went 12-19 overall and 7-11 in the Ohio Valley Conference to earn an eight-place finish in the 12-team league. The Panthers, who return two starters and welcome eight newcomers this season, were picked for a seventh-place OVC finish in 2018-19.
EIU will welcome back fifth-year senior Terrell Lewis, who missed most of last season with an injury and received a medical redshirt. Prior to his injury, Lewis became just the ninth player in OVC history to join the 1,000-point, 500-assist club. 
He will be joined in the backcourt by sophomore Mack Smith, who was named to the OVC All-Newcomer Team a year ago. Smith averaged 12.4 points per game game while connecting on 54 3-pointers and set the EIU freshman record for points in a game (31 against Tennessee Tech).
Eureka has met Eastern Illinois eight previous times in men's basketball. The Panthers have won each of the eight prior bouts.
The Red Devils have made three trips to Charleston in the regular season under head coach Chip Wilde, all in the regular season. EIU has won the three modern-era matchups, including an 81-51 triumph in the most recent meeting on Nov. 17, 2014 in Lantz Arena.
The owner of nearly three decades of coaching experience at the collegiate level, Chip Wilde is in his 12th season as head coach of the Eureka College men's basketball team in 2018-19. The current campaign marks Wilde's 21st season as a collegiate basketball head coach.
Wilde has proved to be one of the most successful head coaches in the storied history of Eureka men's basketball, establishing the Red Devils as a steady presence in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference both on the court and in the classroom. Wilde entered the 2018-19 campaign with 135 wins, fourth-most in the century-long history of the program.
Jay Spoonhour is in his seventh season as head coach at Eastern Illinois. The 1994 Pittsburg State graduate owns a 79-106 record in Charleston and also went 6-4 as interim head coach at UNLV in 2004.
Spoonhour, the son of longtime Division I head coach Charlie Spoonhour, directed the Panthers to 18 wins in 2014-15, EIU's second winning season since 2000-01.
A live online video broadcast of Friday's game will not be available. EIU will provide live statistics of the game at